Need a new GPS? Here’s a tip. Save the money and just stick Eddie Evaldi in the front seat of your car.
The guy knows how to get everywhere.
The Hun School junior and his family have taken up residence in Lawrence for the past two years, making it nine hometowns in 16 years for Evaldi. He was born in Voorhees and then lived—in order—in Maple Shade, Little Ferry, Horsham, Pennsylvania, St. Eugene, Ontario (five miles from the Quebec border), New Brunswick, West Windsor, Hamilton, Ann Arbor, Michigan and finally, Lawrence Township.
“I’ve been all over New Jersey,” Evaldi said. “It stinks at first, obviously, when you move. But you realize there’s a benefit to that. You get to meet more people and ultimately it’s gonna benefit you.”
There has been one common thread throughout Evaldi’s travels—hockey. Every road he’s traveled has been on skates.
His dad, Edward, played for the Junior Flyers in the Metropolitan Hockey League in the early 1990s. He gave Eddie his first stick well before his first birthday, and a career was underway. Evaldi is now a stellar, playmaking defenseman for Hun, the defending Mercer County Tournament champion.
“He’s a junior now and he’s been playing with us since he was a freshman,” coach Ian McNally said. “He kind of gets the chance to be a big dog instead of a little kid on the team.”
Evaldi’s output was anything but little last year, as he had four goals and a whopping 34 assists while playing on the backline. He collected five goals and seven assists while playing forward as a freshman, and was moved to defense last season.
“It was kind of out of necessity based on what we had, but also because he’s got the ability to skate, get up and down the ice, carry the puck, pass the puck and then get back on defense,” McNally said. “This year we have the numbers, we have enough people, but he wanted to play defense again just because he enjoyed it back there.”
His abilities are well honed thanks to a career that began at 19 months old.
“My dad started me really, really early,” Evaldi said. “He’s one hell of a dad. I got my first helmet when I was 11 months old, my first stick at seven months old. He started me young, thousands and thousands of hours of training on skating—particularly the edges—and stickhandling and shooting; all facets of the game.”
Evaldi’s first true memories of hockey are at ages 4 and 5, when he was playing in Canada and scoring tons of goals each game. Although it’s a hockey hotbed north of the border, the players were so young that the competition was not yet good enough to help him sharpen his skills.
“We had this big garage, like, 50 by 30,” Evaldi said. “My dad trained me five hours a day and I got a lot better from that. I have a lot of memories of that. My dad has had a major impact. He’s the No. 1 guy helping me get to where I am today, spending thousands of hours of training me. I can’t thank him enough.”
‘He’s definitely gonna do great things for us this year and he’s got a bright future ahead of him.’
Upon returning to the U.S. at age 6, Evaldi joined the Mercer Chiefs, whose home rink of Iceland in Hamilton is the same as Hun’s. It was there he met current Raiders teammate and fellow junior defenseman Hayden Watson.
And while Evaldi moved around Jersey and Pennsy, he remained with the Chiefs for all but one year before moving to Michigan at age 13. His stay in the Midwest lasted two years and this time he was able to take advantage of another hockey-crazed region.
“There’s a lot of ice there,” Evaldi said. “I trained every day before school, after school. My dad always had ice time lined up. My team practiced three times a week, plus we had games on weekends. We were traveling constantly.”
Which just seemed normal for Evaldi, who enrolled at Hun to take advantage of the academics and high-caliber hockey. No one was happier over his arrival than his old Chiefs buddy.
“I love Eddie, he’s a wonderful teammate,” said Watson, whose dad coached Evaldi as a youngster. “Eddie brings a great offensive game, I think he moves the puck well, stickhandles well. He views the ice well. I think he does everything well. He’s just a great all-around player.”
Evaldi, however, feels the need to prove to others he is an all-around player by putting more shots past the goalie.
“I’ve been pretty much a playmaker,” said Evaldi, who had a goal in the season-opener against Bishop Eustace. “I’ve been trying to score more lately because my (club) coach never really put emphasis on that. I’m just passing the puck, not shooting the puck. Ultimately, coaches aren’t going to take notice and I’m not going to move on to the next level. That’s something I really want to focus on now is scoring more goals. I’ve scored more this year than in other years (for the Chiefs).”
McNally won’t try to discourage Evaldi from scoring goals, but certainly realizes what a valuable talent he has when it comes to Evaldi’s creative ability to set up teammates.
“A lot of guys kind of have a tell-tale way about them,” the coach said. “They kind of look at the guy they’re gonna pass to, they wind up and then they pass. It sends a message to everybody what’s about to happen. Eddie’s hard to figure out. His stickhandle is quick, he looks all over, all of a sudden he’s headed left but the puck goes right. He’s able to kind of hide what he wants to do.”
Raiders captain Brian Nelson, who played club hockey with Evaldi at Virtua in Pennsauken, says Evaldi’s overall game is one big attribute.
“He’s one of our top guys for sure,” Nelson said. “He’s definitely gonna do great things for us this year and he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Whatever town that future lies in, Evaldi will be able to adapt. He has been doing it his whole life.